It probably happens to everyone sooner or later. Some are robbed at gunpoint. Others have their homes broken into. Still others lose their life savings to conmen. I should consider myself fortunate. All I lost was my wallet. And some of my trust in my fellowmen.
On the morning of the robbery I had left the Kotel and went to a place where I thought I could trust everyone. Stupidly, naively, carelessly, I left my backpack with the wallet inside unattended for a short period of time. For me it was a short period, but for a robber it was long enough to execute a theft.
An hour passed before I realized my wallet was missing. My first thought was I had left it somewhere. As I checked every spot I had been in from the last moment I had had it, I pleaded with HaShem to help me find the wallet. After checking each of those spots three times and emptying out my backpack over and over denial set in. Finally, I came to the horrible conclusion I’d been the victim of a crime.
Again, I must stress it was a little crime. Counting the cash and replacement fees my loss probably came to one thousand shekels. I had not been hurt and there was nothing life threatening about the whole situation. Still, one thousand shekels is not a negligible sum and the amount of time I had to spend cancelling credit cards, making a police report, and restoring all the missing items was certainly a nuisance.
As with any aggravation one of my first responses was “why me?”. Our rabbis teach not to ask why, in Hebrew Lamah, but rather Lemah, what for. The fact that my wallet was stolen in Elul, the month of repentance, was not lost on me so I thought hard about my actions the morning of the robbery.
In The Sayings of Our Fathers (Chapter 1, verse 2) we learn that the world rests on three things, Torah, service to HaShem, and acts of loving kindness. There are many ways of doing kindness to our fellowman. Living in a small village, far from a city, giving rides to neighbors is a simple way for us to do acts of thoughtfulness. That morning I had ridden with my husband and we picked up two passengers, a husband and wife, when leaving Shilo. Arriving in Jerusalem the wife asked to get off at a spot where it was impossible to stop and I was somewhat annoyed. Then when we were able to stop for her, the husband wanted to continue on with us. So we had to wait for him to let her out and then get back in. Why couldn’t he have sat behind the driver so we didn’t have to waste our precious minutes waiting for him to struggle in and out? Just because he’s heavy and it’s hard for him to slide across the seat we don’t need to be inconvenienced. This guy only thinks about himself! I let him see my irritation, ruining my act of loving kindness.
I’m not a prophet so I really have no idea why HaShem let my wallet be stolen. Perhaps He wanted to teach me to take better care of my possessions or to appreciate them more. Maybe He was reminding me that I’m not in charge. Whatever the reason, I can examine my mistakes and learn from them. As important as acts of loving kindness are, it is important to do them without impatience or resentment.
Along with that lesson I learned to remind myself again that most people are honest. Once I discovered my wallet was missing there were a number of strangers willing to help me look for it and even lend me money. Remembering that most people are basically good makes it even easier to do acts of loving kindness to others.
On Rosh Hashanah HaShem opens the Book of Judgment and on Yom Kippur He seals it. The Sages instruct us to see ourselves as hanging in the balance with our sins and virtues equal. Now as we are poised to begin a new year, I can take my lessons of the wallet and refine the kindness I do. I can remember that I’m not doing it for reward or appreciation. Rather my goal is to serve HaShem by spreading good feelings in His world. If I can accomplish that then maybe, just maybe, my good deed might be the one action to tip the scales.